ABC of ICT

15th April 2005 at 01:00
In the first of a new column exploring ICT, Pete Roythorne explains weblogs

Weblogs (or blogs) have been around for a long time, but it was the so-called Baghdad Blogger, posting his uncensored diary of life in Baghdad during the American invasion, who brought them to a wider audience. Now it appears the technology is creeping into the classroom.

A blog is an online journal or diary (updating a blog is called "blogging" and the person who keeps a blog is a "blogger"). You view blogs in the same way you would any web page, but instead of having many different pages, blogs tend to revolve around one main page on which all entries are entered in reverse order - ie, most recent first.

Often blogs have no order and are led by whatever the author feels inspired to write about. Having said that, many have a focus, and some, as with the Baghdad Blogger, provide a valuable service.

Starting your own blog is simple: go to one of the many blogging providers (www.blogger.com is one of the most popular, and it's free), sign up, and away you go. One of the great things about blogs is their simplicity - there's no coding involved and you don't need to worry about the updating process as the software does all that for you. All you need to do is type your entry as you would with a word processor. You can even download software that allows you to add pictures.

Although blogs are open to the public, they can also be password-protected, which is essential if you want to use them in a classroom environment.

To give you an idea of how schools are using this technology, one teacher used blogs in his geography class by getting some friends who were travelling the world to post a travel journal and photo archive, and his students regularly posted questions to them.

Another uses them to post his lesson plans, provide links and announce homework assignments.

In general, teachers who use weblogs as part of their classroom armoury find they encourage constructive discussion and debate among pupils and can be especially useful for those who find it difficult to speak up in class, providing a safer environment for them to express their views. Furthermore, they can act as a rich archive source for pupils, where teachers can provide downloadable copies of worksheets and documents handed out throughout the year, as well as information directing learners to additional resources.

Of course, the same safety measures need to be ensured as with using the web generally. For more details go to http:safety.ngfl.gov.ukschools and type "blog" into their search engine.

Blogging sitessoftware

* www.blogger.com

* www.userland.com

* www.sixapart.com

Educational weblogs

* www.schoolblogs.co.uk

* www.weblogg-ed.com

* Go to www.google.co.uk and type in "school blogs"

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